KUALA LUMPUR, January 1 – Bahraini royal Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, a FIFA presidential hopeful, has launched his campaign for the job with a promise to make the global soccer body rise like a phoenix from the ashes.
“FIFA today is a genuine Phoenix project: under my leadership, we shall employ all professional means to lift the organisation out of its ashes and guarantee a solid lasting and successful rebirth,” Sheikh Salman, the Asian Football Confederation chief, said in a statement posted on his campaign website Wednesday.
Sheikh Salman said there was an urgent need to restructure FIFA by splitting football events and governance issues from the commercial, financial and funding of the organisation.
“Only by strictly separating the generation of funds and supervising the flow of all monies spent can we guarantee the rebirth of a new FIFA,” he said.
Five candidates — Sheikh Salman, UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino, former FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, South African business tycoon Tokyo Sexwale and former FIFA official Jerome Champagne of France — have been campaigning for months.
The candidates hope to replace Sepp Blatter, after the controversial Swiss FIFA president received an eight-year suspension amid a corruption scandal that has tarnished the image of world soccer’s governing body.
To achieve the goal of rebranding FIFA, Sheikh Salman said FIFA needs a complete organisational overhaul and to hire external experts.
“Nothing short of a complete organisational overhaul and the introduction of stringent control mechanisms will allow us to re-launch FIFA in its entirety,” he added.
Sheikh Salman, who said that he will not be taking a salary, defended the bulk of the staff at FIFA House, saying “FIFA as a whole is certainly not a rogue organisation.”
Promising to reunite FIFA, the AFC president since 2013, promised open consultation with staff.
“I shall lead by delegation and with a strong emphasis on participation. The days of solitary diktats are over,” he said.
Sheikh Salman has denied allegations made by human rights groups accusing him of involvement in the oppression of pro-democratic demonstrations in 2011 and the use of torture.
Critical of FIFA’s financial woes on the back of its fall from grace, the presidential candidate said he would focus on regaining FIFA’s commercial reputation.
“Only determined, honest and forceful action will deliver the kind of environment FIFA needs for its sponsors to consider the organisation that governs world football,” he said.
“That is what I stand for and that is what I am certain I can deliver if elected,” Sheikh Salman added.